We have heard it all before, right? Pit Bulls are “dangerous,” they are “vicious” by nature, and prone to “attacking” children. These stereotypes roll off the tongue whenever an incident occurs, but where exactly did these ideas come from? Are Pit Bull bite claims even statistically valid? According to Steffen Baldwin, Pit Bull advocate, “dog bite ‘statistics’ are based off of media reports found online where pit bull type attacks are proven to be reported thousands of times more often than dog bite stories involving other breeds.”
While statistical reports may sometimes seem concerning, they can trigger high levels of fear and panic, giving the ability to affect public perception and even impact public policy. Statistics may be used as a tool to create bias, and in the case of Pit Bulls, this has surely been the case. In his Huff Post piece, Baldwin breaks down the following: “a statistic is a “calculated numerical value that characterizes some aspect of a sample set of data…often meant to estimate the true value of a corresponding parameter in an underlying population.” It may seem like common knowledge that Pit Bulls have a statistically high bite rate, but are these stats really pointing towards Pit Bulls? Pit Bulls are considered “ambiguous as a breed” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The “breed” encompasses a range of types and appearances that have been shown to not be reliably identified. How do we truly know it is a “Pit Bull” provoking attacks or doing the biting? Baldwin claims the physical traits described as Pit Bull are also found in many different breeds and are controlled by approximately 50 of the roughly 20,000 genes that create a dog.
Media reports of bite “statistics” are based on media reports that may hardly be based in scientific, objective or accurate information. Breed specific information targeting Pits is clearly unreliable. When a “Pit Bull” type dog is labeled as the aggressor or in any way involved in a bite incident, it is a goldmine for the Anti-Pit Bull websites and it becomes tabloid fodder, easily eaten up by those consuming this media. Though you may think you’re hearing facts, it may just be typical Pit Bull misconceptions. Baldwin calls for this to be an opportunity to educate on dog bite prevention and to advocate for ordinances that are breed neutral, opposed to unfairly targeting Pit Bull like dogs.